After having read a few articles, it seems like Digital Humanities is a chivalrous movement to bring relevance and new life and exploration into humanities, melding existing technology with the various fields therein. Having seen a few projects made using the VisualEyes and Many Eyes tool, as well as the earlier project, the Blake archives, I feel that some of the attention on technology may be a little misplaced.
The VisualEyes tool creates what can sort of be described as a map-and-timeline-integrated interactive presentations. While the existence of the technology itself opens some newer possibilities, the presentation of content often makes projects seem less of a way to meaningfully interact with and learn about topics as they are glorified tech demos painted with academic colors. As we viewed some of the projects in-class, I noticed that (at least with my group), we spent more time wondering what the projects were and what purpose they were supposed to serve than really engaging with the content. The issues here did not lie with the tool itself, but rather the content creators and their presentation.
ManyEyes provides various ways to statistically visualize connections between words. I can see potential in its use as a tool to quickly glean information on commonly used words, but as a person asking questions about the content and trying to glean meaning, commonly used words is the most reliable thing I can use the tool to search for. In-class, we briefly touched over how the importance of concepts aren’t just quantitatively defined. However, the results from the tool are largely based on this.
This is not to say that I think “digital humanities” should just simply be digitization of material. Archives are definitely important, but newer avenues of study and expression should be welcome as well. Over-focus on technique and technology is actually a rather common in history when new innovation occurs – whether sound and color in animation, or in more recent times, augmented reality and 3D technology. The field of [digital] humanities still shows some similarities with the earlier phases of innovation. Who knows – in time, “digital humanities” may become a term that only really had use in the advent of new technology.